Last Friday I gave you this lovely specimen from the King’s College Museum of Life Sciences to try your hand at identifying:
It wasn’t easy, since there were limited views, so the dentition wasn’t entirely visible and the bones of the palate are not shown. Also, there was no scale bar – something that Ric Morris gently reprimanded me for.
Despite these limitations, many of you correctly managed to work out that this is the skull of a Mongoose of some sort. So congratulations to bugblokenz, Flick Baker, henstridgesj, Michelle and Allen Hazen for recognising that this is a member of the Herpestidae.
Narrowing it down beyond that is more of a challenge and without better images it’s a bit unfair to expect a species level identification – but I’m going to have a go.
Scouring through Mongoose skulls in collections and various images online (especially using the fantastic Animal Diversity Web resource, the ever helpful Skulls Unlimited and the brilliant Mammals of Tanzania Skull Key), I came to realise that the teeth are visible enough to discount many Mongoose species. Also, the shape of the zygomatic region and facial profile was quite distinctive (most Mongooses have cheekbones that are flat under the eye sockets – but not this chap).
Excluding the options that didn’t quite fit, left me with a few that did – the Egyptian Mongoose Herpestes ichneumon, Slender Mongoose Herpestes sanguinea, and White-tailed Mongoose Ichneumia albicauda.
Not a clear-cut identification, but better than nothing, and it might be possible to refine it by looking at the specimen in the flesh… as it were.